From the Pastor’s Desk | June 24, 2018

frsamDear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

With the celebration of the birth of St. John the Baptist, the Church remembers the great forerunner of the Messiah. John is the voice crying out in the wilderness, preparing the way for the Savior of the world. We are familiar with his story and his mission. John baptizes with a baptism of repentance and calls people to be ready for the coming of Jesus. In all that he does, John points people to Jesus and prepares them to receive the Gospel. He gives all his energy and eventually his very life in witness to Christ.

The mission of John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus is a mission that continues in the Church today. We are called to prepare the hearts of all people to receive Jesus. We carry out this mission in a variety of ways. St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that we are one body in Christ, though the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given in different ways. Some are called to preach, some are called to give of themselves in service, some are called to bring healing, etc. In all of this, we see that every disciple of Jesus is called to allow their faith to influence and inform every aspect of their lives. Our Catholic faith then is not something to be kept bottled up and hidden, but shared. We are meant to bear witness to our faith not only in private, but even in public.

When we express our faith publicly, we may run into opposition. We will be told to keep faith and public life (or politics) strictly separate, or to keep our faith to ourselves. But we need to remember that sharing our faith is not the same as forcing our faith on others. It is actually a measure of our integrity that our faith permeates both our private and public lives. To be a disciple of Jesus means to be a disciple in every moment. Our Catholic faith ought never be siloed in only one part of our lives. There is nothing wrong with letting our faith-based convictions inform how we ought to act, even if that means standing against the prevailing culture, contradicting our preferred political party’s agenda, or even disagreeing (civilly!) with people we care for. In fact, an integrated life of faith demands this. John the Baptist is a reminder to us of our responsibility to allow our faith in God to be integrated in our lives and to influence all our actions.

This week, our Life Teen high school youth ministry will be putting their faith in action at Catholic Heart Workcamp in Groton, MA. Their volunteer service will be with the poor and elderly. It is one way in which our young people are able to bear witness to their faith in public. Through their work, through their kindness, and through their enthusiastic generosity, our teens prepare the way for Christ to come into the lives and hearts of the people they serve. Please pray for them this week as they bear witness to the Catholic faith!

Peace,

Fr. Sam

From the Pastor’s Desk | June 17, 2018

frsamDear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I confess that I do not often spend much time reading the prophet Ezekiel. The first reading at Mass this weekend from Ezekiel 17:22-24 comes in the context of the great prophetic tradition of Israel. God sends prophets to His people to teach them and, very often, call them back to the right path when they have gone astray. The fuller context of the reading we hear this weekend includes God pointing out the many good things He has given to Israel, only to be answered by ingratitude or infidelity to the covenant. Thus, with the image of a tender cedar shoot, God promises to establish something new and majestic, to which all the earth will turn. The prophet, of course, is preparing those who listen for the coming of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who promises to draw all people to Himself when He is lifted up on the cross (cf. John 12:32). It is Jesus who is “planted” on a high mountain – Calvary. The Gospel tells us that as Jesus taught, people came to him from everywhere (cf. Mark 1:45).

Like the people of ancient Israel, we are aware of God’s many blessings. How fortunate we are in so many ways! Even in our sufferings and challenges, we cannot help but recognize God’s abundance and blessings. At the same time, we can ask ourselves if we are sufficiently aware of these blessings and the covenant of love God has established with us. Do we recognize that our profession of faith has practical, lived consequences and that we are obliged to “hold up” our end of the bargain?

What is the promise God makes to us? We are promised forgiveness of our sins through the Blood of Christ poured out on the Cross. This forgiveness of sins opens the way for us to share Christ’s eternal life in the heavenly kingdom of God. The order of creation, when Adam and Eve walked in conversation with God in the Garden of Eden, is restored. This covenant requires something of us in return. First, we respond with our faith in Jesus Christ. This faith is expressed not only in our profession of the Creed, but also in the works that accompany our faith. Thus, St. James reminds us that “Faith without works is dead,” (James 2:26). Our faith professed and acted upon is our covenant response to the New Covenant established by Christ. Do we live out the covenant? Are we faithful?

Our God is a God who keeps His promises. The covenant established by Christ is new and we are invited into this faithful relationship every day. The sacramental life of the Church help us to remain faithful to the God who has given all for us. The Gospel we proclaim inspires us to put our faith into action. If we are to be the tender cedar shoot that Ezekiel speaks of, we must be faithful and alive in God’s grace. The more alive we are in the Gospel and in the covenant, the more the whole world will be drawn to the covenant. The tender shoot planted on the high mountain draws all things to itself, just as Jesus, lifted up on the Cross draws all men to Himself. In the same way, the Church – globally and locally here in this parish community – is planted on a mountain. When we, the members, live in fidelity to our baptismal promises, fed by the graces we receive in the sacraments, we become a living sign of God’s presence, and the whole world is drawn into the fruitful branches of this majestic cedar that Ezekiel foresaw.

Peace,

Fr. Sam

From the Pastor’s Desk |June 10, 2018

frsamDear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

During this year’s flu season, Bishop Caggiano asked all pastors of the Diocese to carefully reflect and consider suspending the distribution of the Precious Blood at Mass. Out of an abundance of caution for health, we opted to suspend the distribution of the Precious Blood, with the intention of undertaking a serious reflection on the Church’s norms regarding distribution of Holy Communion under both species. I shared those norms with you in a series of bulletin columns, and Fr. Tim and I have spent time in conversation and prayerful reflection together about this subject.

While the common practice in the first centuries of the Church was to distribute communion under the species of both bread and wine, as it is today in the Eastern rites of the Church (N.B.: Holy communion under both species in the Eastern Rites is administered to the recipient from the priest by way of a spoon.), by the year 1499, the distribution of holy communion under one kind had become the norm. The Council of Trent taught, following St. Thomas Aquinas, that the whole Christ is received under either species, thus it was sufficient to receive the host alone. This remained the practice of the Church for centuries. The Second Vatican Council suggested both species could be distributed at Mass on certain occasions, to be further defined and regulated by national bishops’ conferences. In the United States, the 2002 Instruction from the USCCB entitled Norms for the Celebration and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America states that Communion under both species may be given, as both species is “a clearer form of the sacramental sign” (14), but care must be taken that there is no danger of profanation of the sacrament or that the rite would be too unwieldy to carry out (24). The norms remind us that the Church envisions limited circumstances in which to distribute Communion under both kinds: to priests unable to celebrate or concelebrate, to the deacon and others with a role at the Mass, or to members of a religious community at their community Mass, those participating in a retreat or other major pastoral gathering (23).

We must remember that receiving Holy Communion under both kinds does not impart more grace than when we receive one kind alone. Jesus is present, whole and entire, under either kind. The Sacrament cannot possibly be “mutilated.” We should be careful not to think that Holy Communion under one kind alone is in any way deficient.

After much prayer and careful consideration, Fr. Tim and I have decided to continue our current practice of distributing Holy Communion under one species at most Masses. We believe this decision to be in keeping with the vision the Church gives us in her liturgical documents. We will reserve the distribution of the Precious Blood for Holy Thursday, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, and the Holy Days of Obligation that occur throughout the year. For anyone who has a dietary restriction making it impossible to consume the host, we ask that you inform us directly so that arrangements can be made for you to receive Holy Communion in a way that protects your health. We appreciate your understanding during this time and invite you to ask any questions that you might have.

 

Peace,

Fr. Sam

From the Pastor’s Desk | June 3, 2018

frsamDear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

With the celebration of today’s great feast of Corpus Christi, we celebrate the gift of the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ on earth through the Eucharist. We are brought back to Holy Thursday, when Jesus commands the Apostles to take bread and wine and “do this in memory of me.” They are to repeat His words and actions: this is my body, this is my blood. We are brought back to Ascension Thursday, when Jesus speaks His last words to the Apostles: “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20). From the very earliest days, then, the Eucharist has been the supernatural food, the celebration, which gives the Church life and which sustains Christians in the daily pursuit of virtue and holiness. Indeed, there is a maxim in theology that the Church makes the Eucharist and the Eucharist makes the Church.

On this great day, we also turn with gratitude to the work of our patron, Pope St. Pius X. A lifelong devotion to the Eucharist fueled St. Pius’ entire priestly, episcopal, and papal ministries. One of his legacies is the encouragement that children should begin to receive the Eucharist in Holy Communion at the age of seven, coupled with his desire for all Catholics to receive the Eucharist more frequently. He wrote “Children have need of Him that they may be formed in habits of virtue; youth have need of Him that they may obtain mastery over their passions; maidens have need of Him that they preserve their innocence untarnished; all men and women have need of Him that they may advance in virtue and carry out faithfully the duties of their state in life; there are none who can afford to neglect this great source of spiritual strength, none who can do without Him.”

How true these words are today! We cannot afford to neglect this great source of spiritual strength! Notice how our patron’s words end: “none who can do without Him.” The Eucharist is Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life. To neglect the Eucharist is to neglect Jesus Himself. This is why our devotion to the Eucharist encompasses our celebration of Mass, our reception of Holy Communion, and our reverent devotion to the Eucharist outside of Mass. The Church’s great desire, and the desire that all Catholics ought to share, is, as the classic prayer goes, that Jesus who is truly present in the Eucharist would “be praised, adored, and loved with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the Tabernacles of the world, even until the end of time.”

This praise, adoration, and love is expressed in our reverence in the church. We genuflect each and every time we cross in front of the Tabernacle, and before entering a pew or exiting the church. This is a sign of respect that all of us should make without hesitation. We maintain a prayerful spirit of silence in the church, especially before and after Mass, because our Lord’s mysterious presence in the Eucharist must be acknowledged not only with our physical gestures, but also with the attentive listening of hearts attuned to the spiritual gifts Jesus wishes to communicate to us.

We receive the Eucharist with reverence and care, above all. In my weekly bulletin columns over the last three years, I have frequently encouraged us to examine how we receive Communion. I once again want to encourage this reflection, and in particular, suggest the practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue rather than in the hand.

There are countless reasons I make the request to receive on the tongue. It was the universal practice of the Church from time immemorial and remains the normative way to receive (reception in the hand being something permitted by way of exception). It guarantees that the sacred host is properly cared for and not profaned. It makes visible the reverence the whole church community has for our Eucharistic Lord. It communicates to any and all who come to our parish that the Eucharist is the center of our parish’s existence, our reason for being, and our greatest treasure. It instills in the whole worshipping community a sense of reverence and of the sublime action of God that remains invisible. It reminds us that to worship God is to acknowledge that we are approaching a sacred mystery to which our humanity bows in humble adoration. May our reception of the Eucharist not only reflect but also increase our reverence, devotion, and love for Jesus Christ!

 

Peace,

Fr. Sam

P.S. You may also download a PDF copy of New Faith Formation Vision

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Pastor’s Desk | May 27, 2018

frsamDear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we re-enter the season of Ordinary Time, the Church gives us three great solemnities that are instructive for our prayer and devotional lives. First, we celebrate today the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. Second, next Sunday we will celebrate the solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. This feast, traditionally celebrated on a Thursday, will also be marked here at St. Pius by a solemn high Mass in the Extraordinary Form on Thursday, May 31. Third, the solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is celebrated on the Friday after Corpus Christi (June 8). These great liturgical celebrations help us reflect on the true nature of Ordinary Time.

In the Community of Jerusalem, a French monastic community, the season of Ordinary Time is referred to as “the time of the Church.” In the weeks following Pentecost, the monks and nuns of this community understand that the mission carried out by the Apostles on that first Pentecost is also entrusted to the Church all through history. Today is the season of the Church and we are to make known the powerful love of the God who is one God in three Divine Persons, the God who feeds His people with His very Body and Blood, the Trinity at whose center beats a human heart.

In our reflection on the Blessed Trinity, we are reminded that the eternal love of God is pure act, that is, it is never confined to one space, time, or individual, but is rather eternally poured out. This eternal self-gift is poured out, not only within the relations of the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, but also on all of creation. This eternal self-gift is poured out in a special way on those who have been baptized by the pouring of water and the invocation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. By extension, those who have been brought into this eternal love are also sent, in order that this Divine power may be continue to be shared in time.

Thus, we are in the time of the Church. We who are members of the Church, recipients of the eternal outpouring of Divine love, are sent, as the Gospel reminds us, to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that [Jesus] commanded…” Therefore, as I have said many times, there is nothing “ordinary” about this time. Rather, all who have been baptized are swept up into this divine action. We are part of the mission. Today we return to the source – our eyes, hearts, and minds are fixed on the Blessed Trinity, the very source of the love that saves the world. It is the power of the Blessed Trinity at work not only in God Himself, but also in each of us, that vivifies and sanctifies the world. This is the time in which the Church, fully alive, is charged with that great commission to make disciples in the name of the Blessed Trinity.

Peace,

Fr. Sam